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Summary of Benefit Corporations (B-Corps): Objectives, History and Next Steps
Summary of Benefit Corporations (B-Corps): Objectives, History and Next Steps
Summary of Benefit Corporations (B-Corps): Objectives, History and Next Steps
Summary of Benefit Corporations (B-Corps): Objectives, History and Next Steps
Summary of Benefit Corporations (B-Corps): Objectives, History and Next Steps
Summary of Benefit Corporations (B-Corps): Objectives, History and Next Steps
Summary of Benefit Corporations (B-Corps): Objectives, History and Next Steps
Summary of Benefit Corporations (B-Corps): Objectives, History and Next Steps
Summary of Benefit Corporations (B-Corps): Objectives, History and Next Steps
Summary of Benefit Corporations (B-Corps): Objectives, History and Next Steps
Summary of Benefit Corporations (B-Corps): Objectives, History and Next Steps
Summary of Benefit Corporations (B-Corps): Objectives, History and Next Steps
Summary of Benefit Corporations (B-Corps): Objectives, History and Next Steps
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Summary of Benefit Corporations (B-Corps): Objectives, History and Next Steps

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Part of a term paper for York University Master of Environmental Studies course ES/ENVS5150 Perspectives on Green Business (Fall 2010, Prof. Brian Milani) which specifically reviews the objectives, …

Part of a term paper for York University Master of Environmental Studies course ES/ENVS5150 Perspectives on Green Business (Fall 2010, Prof. Brian Milani) which specifically reviews the objectives, history and next steps for the Benefit Corporation (B-Corp) movement (http://www.bcorporation.net, http://www.benefitcorp.net/)

This is a little bit out of date now - many of the things described have now happened and work is starting on Ontario / Canadian legislative changes. This is being co-ordinated by MaRS, contact is Joyce Sou.

I also note that there are now some excellent videos by B-Labs founder Jay Coen Gilbert which provide much of the rational and objectives for Benefit Corporations: See http://www.bcorporation.net/index.cfm?fuseaction=modalContent.content&id=00EC4D56-B9DE-48D7-A23B-900500BE085A


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  • 1. Summary of B-Corporations – History and DirectionExtracted from: Towards A Definition of Organizational Sustainability:An Exploration of the Reporting of Organizational Performance for SustainabilityOutcomesA term paper by Antony Upward for ES/ENVS5150 Perspectives on Green Business, a requiredcourse for the Graduate Diploma in Business and the Environment, part of the Masters ofEnvironmental Studies (MES) Program at York University, Faculty of Environmental Studies /Schulich School of Business1. IntroductionA whole range of human social systems, vital for planetary flourishing, require verifiedinformation about the performance of human organizations. This information is used to makedecisions: within the social systems which meet current needs and wants1 (as currentlyunderstood), and which act to change those needs and wants and the social systems that meetthem2.This paper explores the requirements for organizations to provide information concerning theirsustainability outcomes as input to these social systems.To do this I first review the history of organizational performance reporting relating tosustainability outcomes, touching briefly on the need to verify the information provided, i.e.ensuring the information provided by organizations is trusted, transparent, timely, and consistentand that it measures of the environmental, social, and economic outcomes of the organizationover time.Next I take my first steps towards my own working definition of overall and organizationalsustainability, one of the components of my MES plan of study area of concentration (Upward,2010). In light of these definitions, I then consider the implications for the measurement oforganizational sustainability performance.Finally, to start to apply my definitions in practice, I undertake a short critical review one of themore recent sustainability reporting and verification approaches – the B-Labs pre-cursor to theGlobal Impact Investor Network’s (GIIN3) Global Impact Investment Rating System (GIIRS4)powered by the Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS5).In this way I hope to make some small contribution to the definition and measurement oforganizational sustainability, as well as provide a basis for my own subsequent research.This summary only includes the section about B-Corporation / B-Labs highlighted inyellow above..A.Upward #211135423 Term Paper - ExtractENVS5150 1 May 25, 2011
  • 2. 6. Example of a Recent Sustainability Performance Reporting (and Verification) StandardIn the first quarter of 2011 the Global Impact Investors Network (GIIN3) will be launching theGlobal Impact Investor Reporting System (GIIRS4) powered by the Impact Reporting InvestmentStandards (IRIS5). This method, standard and tool are an evolution of the existing B-Labs B-Corporation Certification survey tool and report which I used in practice this term. Please seeAppendix A for the background on GIIN, GIIRS, IRIS and their B-Labs precursor which waswritten as part of this work.As a very recent example of a Sustainability Performance Reporting (and Verification) StandardI wanted to conclude the paper by considering how the existing B-Labs approach (and hence tosome degree the emerging GIIRS/IRIS approach from the GIIN) fits with my definition oforganizational sustainability, and if / how it deals with the problems related to measurementdiscussed above.In working with the B-Labs approach it is clear that it has a number of aspects which are alignedwith the overall definition of sustainability given earlier. The B-Labs survey asks organizations200 questions about their use of a number of key patterns that if well applied are known toincrease the possibilities for sustainability to emerge. In taking this approach the B-Labs surveybuilds in some aspects of the definition of organization sustainability and the requirements for itsmeasurement.For example, some of the patterns used by the B-Labs survey are: • Accountability, including patterns regarding inclusivity and independence of governance and transparency • Employees, including patterns regarding compensation (i.e. ratio of highest to lowest salary) & benefits (e.g. healthcare, child care, etc.), employee ownership and work environment (involvement in decision making) • Consumers, including patterns related to how an organization’s product or service is directly beneficial to the community in which it operates • Community, including patterns related to suppliers (locality, diversity of ownership), involvement in charity and community service • Environment, including patterns related to facilities (LEED), energy use (carbon intensity, and renewables), supply chain and manufacturing (transportation costs, environmental and social costs of inputs and wastes).However, there are also clearly limitations with the B-Labs approach in terms of its ability tomeasure organizational sustainability as defined above. Firstly, it is not clear whether thepatterns are exhaustive or exclusive. In other words, are there other patterns which are requiredor could also lead to sustainable outcomes emerging? Secondly, although some of the patternsimplicitly recognize the system within a system nature of organizational sustainability, thereappears to be no explicit consideration of this concept. Lastly, it is far from clear that the metricsunderlying the survey questions take into account many of the complex issues of measurementA.Upward #211135423 Term Paper - ExtractENVS5150 2 May 25, 2011
  • 3. discussed earlier. Significantly more work would be required to reach a useful conclusion onthis point.Back in 1999 World Resources Institute stated that sustainability metrics for business are all“struggling with the difficult challenges of complexity, comparability, credibility, andcompleteness” (quoted in Richards & Gladwin, 1999, p.18). This brief analysis of the B-Labsapproach to the measurement of organizational sustainability indicates that this observation isstill true some 10 years later.However, despite its drawbacks, the B-Corporation certification survey tool and report (as theprecursor to GIIRS and IRIS) appears to be one of the better approaches for the evaluation andcomparison of the environmental and social performance of companies. From my experience,their approach is better aligned with the proposed definition of organizational sustainability thanother tools and approaches. However, while it is better aligned, it is clearly not valid to attemptto draw any absolute conclusions concerning the sustainability of an organization by using the B-Lab metrics. Indeed attempting to do so would be misleading based on my definition oforganizational sustainability.Appendix A - Background on the Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS) and theGlobal Impact Investment Rating System (GIIRS)IntroductionThis section is significantly based on my contribution to a group project in the course BS/BSUS6500– ES/ENVS5113 Business Strategies for Sustainability which I took this term at the Schulich Schoolof Business. The group project prepared a report for a fictitious “green” investment fund company“GreenFund” on a real company of the teams choice, and concluded whether or not that companyshould be invested in by the money’s entrusted to GreenFund by its customers.A major part of this work was to identify and use a methodology for assessing the financial,environmental and social sustainability of the selected company. Our team chose to use traditionalapproaches to financial / strategic sustainability (e.g. traditional financial indicators plus Porters FiveForces Model), and selected the currently available version of the GIIRS powered by IRIS (the B-Labs B-Certification Survey Tool and Benchmark).The following material was written to describe the background and history of the GIIRS, IRIS andB-Labs schemes.BackgroundThe Benefit-Corporation (B-Corporation) certification system was launched in 2006 with thefounding of the non-profit organization B-Labs. The long term objective of B-Labs founders was tocreate a new type of corporation which unlike existing corporate legal structures would enableA.Upward #211135423 Term Paper - ExtractENVS5150 3 May 25, 2011
  • 4. shareholders, boards of directors and management to work to triple bottom line objectives withoutfear of legal sanction from shareholders (as is the case with existing corporate legal entities in theUnited States, e.g. S-Corps and C-Corps). As of the time of writing 327 corporations have receivedB-Corporation certification and 2 U.S. States (Maryland and Vermont) passed Benefit Corplegislation to create this new corporate form (B-Labs, 2009; B-Labs, 2010a).In addition to the legal barriers which B-Labs set out to remove, another significant problem forbusinesses wishing to pursue a triple bottom line is how to find similarly minded investors andfinanciers and vice versa.Investing and financing triple bottom line companies is becoming known as “Impact Investing”which aims “to solve social or environmental challenges while generating financial profit” (B-Labs,2010b; GIIN, 2009b). To investigate this and related problems in 2007 and 2008 the RockefellerFoundation opened discussions with 40 global investors. Solutions were discussed and on Sept 25,2009 the Global Impact Investor Network (GIIN) was officially launched by former President BillClinton to execute the solutions proposed (GIIN, 2009a). During this process, B-Labs, whorecognized the same need for B-Corporations to find investors and financiers, became a partner ofGIIN.One part of the problem the investors identified was “a lack of transparency and credibility in how[companies and investment] funds define, track, and report the social and environmentalperformance of their capital.” The investors felt that the “scarcity of consistent credible non-financial performance information also prevented fair comparisons between impact investingopportunities, social and environmental performance benchmarks, and other aggregate industryanalyses” (GIIN, 2010b; Jones, 2009).One of the key solutions proposed to help businesses who are attempting to become ‘sustainable’and impact investors find each other was the creation of a standard framework for assessing socialand environmental impact of companies, tools to measure companies, and a database of bench marksto allow investors and companies compare performance. This solution was modelled on the similarstructures which already exists for the measurement and comparison of financial and economicperformance (e.g. GAAP, SEC, SOX, and rating agencies). As Matt Krogh from B-Labs stated“Think Standard & Poor’s ratings agency but for social and environmental impact” (Krogh, 2010).In the spring of 2009 GIIN hired Deloitte and PwC were hired to starting work on GIINsenvironmental and social reporting standard which became known as the Impact Reporting andInvestment Standards (IRIS) (GIIN, 2010b).However, for rating standards to provide results that are useful they need to be embedded in areporting system to ensure companies don’t just use the standard to tell “its own story in terms ofsustainability and social impact, picking and choosing which metrics to report and failing to putthem in any context” (Krogh, 2010).Indeed this is the largest criticism of perhaps the most well known existing Corporate SocialResponsibility reporting standard the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). The GRI standard has beenA.Upward #211135423 Term Paper - ExtractENVS5150 4 May 25, 2011
  • 5. in existence since 1997, is now used by over 1,500 organizations, and is fully supported by theUnited Nations Environment Program (UNEP) (GRI, 2008; Hill, 2007). The Global ReportingInitiative itself recognizes its limited application to “rating and ranking” of companies “it is GRI’spolicy not to be a judge of performance, but it is clear that there is a need for the development ofpowerful new ratings and rankings” (GRI, 2010, p36).In response to these problems the founders of GIIN realized that IRIS alone was not sufficient for tosolve the rating and ranking issue for companies and investors. To solve this problem GIIN neededa system which would allow the IRIS to be deployed consistently. Since B-Labs already had aconsistent process and tools for certifying B-Corporations, GIIN partnered with B-Labs to create theGlobal Impact Investment Rating System (GIIRS).(Arf, 2010; B-Labs, 2010e).Currently 25 organizations (B-Labs, 2010d) like Investors Circle (“a network of 150 angel investors,professional venture capitalists, foundations and family offices are using private capital to promotethe transition to a sustainable economy)” (Investors Circle, 2010), are planning on using GIIRS astheir metrics partner.IRIS and its instantiation in the GIIRS are not operational at this time. The formal GIIRS rating forcompanies will start in Q2 2011 (B-Labs, 2010c) and the IRIS benchmark database is planned to belaunched in early 2011 (GIIN, 2010a)., however, samples of the expected full GIIRS report based onIRIS, including bench marking, is available (Appendix B) The significant similarities to the existingB-Corporation certification report make apparent the GIIRS heritage in the B-Corporation tools.A.Upward #211135423 Term Paper - ExtractENVS5150 5 May 25, 2011
  • 6. Appendix B – Sample of Proposed GIIRS Report Powered by IRISA.Upward #211135423 Term Paper - ExtractENVS5150 6 May 25, 2011
  • 7. A.Upward #211135423 Term Paper - ExtractENVS5150 7 May 25, 2011
  • 8. A.Upward #211135423 Term Paper - ExtractENVS5150 8 May 25, 2011
  • 9. A.Upward #211135423 Term Paper - ExtractENVS5150 9 May 25, 2011
  • 10. 7. BibliographyNote: This is the full bibliography for the original paperAccountAbility. (2003). The State of Sustainability Assurance London, United Kingdom: AccountAbility.Arf, A. (2010). CFOZone.com - The Network of Corporate Finance - A surfeit of sustainability reporting standards? Retrieved 11/17/2010, 2010, from http://www.cfozone.com/index.php/Newsflash/A-surfeit-of-sustainability-reporting- standardsu.htmlBansal, P. (2005). Evolving sustainably: a longitudinal study of corporate sustainable development. Strategic Management Journal, 26(3), 197-218. doi:10.1002/smj.441B-Labs. (2009). Introducing the B Corporation Berwyn, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.: B-Labs.B-Labs. (2010a). B Corporation - Home. Retrieved 11/17/2010, 2010, from http://www.bcorporation.net/B-Labs. (2010b). GIIRS | About | What is Impact Investing. Retrieved 11/17/2010, 2010, from http://www.giirs.org/about-giirs/what-is-impact-investingB-Labs. (2010c). GIIRS | Company Benefits. Retrieved 11/17/2010, 2010, from http://www.giirs.org/companies/companiesB-Labs. (2010d). GIIRS | For Funds | Pioneer. Retrieved 11/17/2010, 2010, from http://www.giirs.org/for-funds/pioneerB-Labs. (2010e). GIIRS | What GIIRS Does. Retrieved 11/17/2010, 2010, from http://www.giirs.org/about-giirs/aboutBlackburn, W. R. (2007). The sustainability handbook: the complete management guide to achieving social, economic and environmental responsibility. London, United Kingdom: Earthscan.Blackburn, W. R. (2009). Meaning of Sustainability: How It Differs from Sustainable Development, Social Responsibility, Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Responsibility, Environmental Sustainability, Corporate Citizenship, Global Citizenship, and Sustainable Growth. Retrieved 12/9/2010, 2010, from http://wblackburnconsulting.com/the-sustainability-handbook-information-order- online/meaning-of-sustainability/BSR. (2009). State of Sustainable Business Poll 2009 San Franciso, California, U.S.A: Business for Social Responsibility.A.Upward #211135423 Term Paper - ExtractENVS5150 10 May 25, 2011
  • 11. Deming, W. E. (1986). Out of the crisis Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Advanced Engineering Study.Dienel, E. (2010, Feb 2). Mandatory Reporting: BSR Debates the Pros and Cons of Requiring Companies to Report on Sustainability. BSR Insight, 1-4.Dimou, M., & Upward, A. (2010). Issue Seminar: Accounting for the Sustainability of the Canadian Economy. Unpublished manuscript.Doig, M. (2003). The Nature of Organizational Sustainability. (PhD, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT)). 1-305.Doig, M. (2009). Organisational Sustainability. Retrieved 12/8/2010, 2010, from http://www.unisa.edu.au/corpsocialresp/csr/sustainability.aspEhrenfeld, J. (2008). Sustainability by design: a subversive strategy for transforming our consumer culture. New Haven: Yale University Press.Germano, W. P. (2001). Getting it published: a guide for scholars and anyone else serious about serious books. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.GIIN. (2009a). Global Impact Investing Network: History. Retrieved 11/17/2010, 2010, from http://www.thegiin.org/cgi-bin/iowa/aboutus/history/index.htmlGIIN. (2009b). Global Impact Investing Network: Impact Investing. Retrieved 11/17/2010, 2010, from http://www.thegiin.org/cgi-bin/iowa/investing/index.htmlGIIN. (2010a). Benchmarks | IRIS: Impact Reporting and Investment Standards. Retrieved 11/17/2010, 2010, from http://iris.thegiin.org/benchmarksGIIN. (2010b). History | IRIS: Impact Reporting and Investment Standards. Retrieved 11/17/2010, 2010, from http://iris.thegiin.org/historyGRI. (2008). GRI - History. Retrieved 11/17/2010, 2010, from http://www.globalreporting.org/AboutGRI/WhatIsGRI/History/OurHistory.htmGRI. (2010). The Transparent Economy - Six tigers stalk the global recovery—and how to tame them (No. 2010). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Global Reporting Initiative.Hahn, T., Figge, F., Pinkse, J., & Preuss, L. (2010). Trade-offs in corporate sustainability: you cant have your cake and eat it. Business Strategy and the Environment, 19(4), 217-229. doi:10.1002/bse.674Hill, K. M. (2007). Sustainability reporting 10 years on (No. 2010). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Global Reporting Initiative.A.Upward #211135423 Term Paper - ExtractENVS5150 11 May 25, 2011
  • 12. Hockerts, K. (1999). The SusTainAbility Radar. Greener Management International, (25), 29.Hollingworth, M. (2009). Building 360 Organizational Sustainability. Ivey Business Journal, (November/December 2009)Hubbard, G. (2009). Measuring organizational performance: beyond the triple bottom line. Business Strategy and the Environment, 18 (3), 177-191.Investors Circle. (2010). Early Stage Impact Investing Happens Here! - Investors Circle. Retrieved 11/17/2010, 2010, from http://www.investorscircle.net/Jones, K. (2009). GIIRS is a Bridge that will Make More Money Flow to Good. Retrieved 11/17/2010, 2010, from http://inspiredeconomist.com/2009/08/11/giirs-is-a-bridge-that-will- make-more-money-flow-to-good/Kolk, A. (1999). Evaluating corporate environmental reporting. Business Strategy and the Environment, 8(4), 225-237. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099-0836(199907/08)8:4<225::AID- BSE206>3.0.CO;2-4Krogh, M. (2010). Channeling Investment for Impact: New rating system helps investors move beyond responsibility. Retrieved 11/17/2010, 2010, from http://blog.bcorporation.net/2010/04/channeling-investment-for-impact-new-rating-system- helps-investors-move-beyond-responsibility/Layard, R. (2006). Happiness and Public Policy: a Challenge to the Profession. The Economic Journal, 116(510), C24-C33. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0297.2006.01073.xLintott, J. (1998). Beyond the economics of more: the place of consumption in ecological economics. Ecological Economics, 25(3), 239-248. doi:10.1016/S0921-8009(97)00042-6McDonough, W. (2002). In Braungart M. (Ed.), Cradle to cradle: remaking the way we make things. New York: North Point Press.Owen, D., & ODwyer, B. (2004). Assurance Statement Quality in Environmental, Social and Sustainability Reporting: A Critical Evaluation of Leading Edge Practice. Proceedings of the Fourth Asia Pacific Interdisciplinary Research in Accounting Conference, Singapore. 1- 27.Richards, D. J., & Gladwin, T. N. (1999). Sustainability metrics for the business enterprise. Environmental Quality Management, 8(3), 11-21. doi:10.1002/tqem.3310080303Senge, P. M. (1990). The fifth discipline: the art and practice of the learning organization. New York, N.Y.: Doubleday Currency.Upward, A. (2010). Masters of Environmental Studies: Plan of Study (Initial) - Business Process Design and Sustainability. Unpublished manuscript.A.Upward #211135423 Term Paper - ExtractENVS5150 12 May 25, 2011
  • 13. Victor, P. A. (2008). Managing without growth : slower by design, not disaster. Cheltenham, UK ; Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.WCED. (1987). Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future (The Brundtland Commission Report). Retrieved 11/15/2010, 2010, from http://www.un-documents.net/wced-ocf.htmZadek, S., & Raynard, P. (2004). The Future of Sustainability Assurance (No. 86). London, United Kingdom: Certified Accountants Educational Trust; The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants; AccountAbility.8. Notes1 Examples of social systems which meet current needs and wants include: finding investmentsto make, finding sources of funds to borrow from, choosing which products or services tobuy/consume, choosing whether to volunteer/become involved/contribute, choosing whether andwith whom to seek employment, choosing whether to sell/offer products and services to another.2 Examples of social systems which act to changes needs, wants and the social systems that meetthem include: government (via policy development and implementation), non-governmentalactors (NGO’s, including political parties, environmental and social groups), and companies (viathe media / marketing activities).3 Global Impact Investor Network (GIIN) http://www.thegiin.org4 Global Impact Investment Rating System (GIIRS) http://www.giirs.org/about-giirs/about.5 Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS) http://iris.thegiin.orgA.Upward #211135423 Term Paper - ExtractENVS5150 13 May 25, 2011

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